How to Tow With a CVT Transmission

by Christopher Jackson
camping,trailer image by Greg Pickens from

The continuously variable transmission (CVT) is a relatively new development in the automotive world. The concept of transferring power via belts instead of gears to provide an infinite number of gear ratios has been around for centuries, but the CVT has only been in common usage in automobiles since the 1990s. Thanks to the rising focus on fuel efficiency, these stepless transmissions are becoming more common. When used in modern SUVs and crossover vehicles, consumers who tow trailers may be concerned about proper maintenance and usage. The good news is that towing with a CVT is no different than towing with a conventional transmission.

Step 1

Install the receiver or ball hitch. If you are not comfortable bolting the hitch on yourself, most trailer rental outlets will install it for you. The hitch will be permanently attached for any future use.

Step 2

Install the trailer wiring harness, following the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 3

Attach the trailer to the tow vehicle by lowering the tongue over the ball hitch and locking it in place. Plug the four-pin wiring harness into the corresponding receptacle on the tow vehicle, and attach the safety chains.

Step 4

Drive with the CVT in the "D" position. There is no need to lock it into a specific gear ratio.

Check the engine temperature periodically while driving to ensure that the tow vehicle is not running abnormally warm.


  • Four-pin wiring harnesses are available as ready-to-install kits for most new vehicles.
  • Wide, trailer-towing mirrors can make navigating parking lots easier if you have a tall or wide trailer, but are not necessary for most small loads.
  • Some modern vehicles have a trailer-sway mitigation program built into the electronic stability control. This will improve handling on the freeway and help to keep the trailer from losing control on uncertain surfaces. Check your owner's manual.


  • Remember that stopping distances and turning diameters are slightly increased when towing a trailer. The closer a trailer is to your vehicle's weight limit, the greater effect it will have on your vehicle's handling and stopping ability.
  • Do not exceed your tow vehicle's weight rating. CVT-equipped vehicles are usually light-duty trucks or cars. The maximum trailer weight can be found in your owner's manual.

Items you will need

  • Receiver or ball hitch rated for your vehicle
  • Four-pin wiring harness

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